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Local Option Sales Tax Passes House Committee, Endorsed by 8 Governors

A bill that would allow for a local option sales tax passed a Kentucky House of Representatives committee on Tuesday.

House Bill 399, which would amend the Kentucky Constitution to authorize the General Assembly to confer upon the proper authority of any city or county the power to levy a local option sales and use tax (subject to specifically enumerated conditions and limitations), passed the House panel by a vote of 6-3.

Because it would require voter approval to amend the state constitution, in order to pass the full House, a three-fifths majority must vote in favor.

Supporters are not optimistic of its chances. WDRB in Louisville reports:

"We had to get this step completed first, and now we'll go to the next process," said Rep. Tommy Thompson, D-Owensboro, a supporter of the local-option amendment.

The leadership of the Democrat-controlled House is divided on the issue. Louisville Democrat Larry Clark, the House speaker pro-tem, voted against the local-option in the House committee Tuesday.

Shortly after the vote by the House committee on elections, constitutional amendments and intergovernmental affairs, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonburg, said he shared Clark's concerns.

"I think it's bad policy for the state, quite frankly," Stumbo said.

Stumbo also sought to define the movement as an effort to impose taxes on visitors to Kentucky's "centers of commerce."

Several mayors in Kentucky have spoken in favor of the legislation which would allow voters in a city or county to approve a referendum implementing a temporary tax to fund specific projects. Covington Mayor Sherry Carran has previously voiced her support for it along with the mayors of Louisville and Lexington.

At a legislative forum in January at Northern Kentucky University, State Senators Chris McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill) and Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) said that they oppose it while Sate Rep. Arnold Simpson (D-Covington) said that he was open to the debate.

Meanwhile, Governor Steve Beshear was joined by all seven of his living predecessors in endorsing the legislation.

“I very strongly support the LIFT initiative,” Beshear said. “When you look at Oklahoma City and hear what they have accomplished there, it makes you realize that communities in Kentucky need the same tools if we want to remain competitive.”